'Jump Street' looks profitable for Lion, Barber says

The Lion has begun to stir again in the first full year after emerging from bankruptcy, with MGM announcing that it may revive its dormant United Artists banner.

MGM also revealed this week that it had generated net income of about $38 million on $699 million in revenue for 2011 — even though it posted a “modest” loss on its investment in Sony’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” which grossed more than $230 million worldwide.

MGM said in its 2011 financial results announcement that it’s bought back the parts of UA that it didn’t own and now owns 100% under co-chairmen-CEOs Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum. It disclosed in a filing this week that it”may resume using the United Artists banner to develop and produce new films.”

United Artists was created in 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford and became part of MGM in 1981 following the “Heaven’s Gate” fiasco. In 2006, UA was revived as a joint venture between MGM and Cruise-Wagner, the Tom Cruise-Paula Wagner production banner, and delivered “Lions for Lambs” and “Valkyrie” before Wagner left in 2008. UA then co-produced “Fame” in 2009 and “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

Barber unveiled in a conference call with investors that “Dragon Tattoo” performed below expectations and generated a “modest” loss, requiring about 10% more revenue to break even. He also said MGM is talking with Sony about co-financing a sequel based on the second book in the “Millennium” trilogy by author Stieg Larsson.

MGM also co-financed “21 Jump Street” with Sony, and Barber said he expects the comedy, which opened last weekend to $36.3 million domestically, to be profitable for MGM.

The Lion’s 2012 co-financing slate includes “G.I Joe: Retaliation” and “Hope Springs” coming this summer. The 23rd James Bond pic, “Skyfall,” hits in November followed by the first of two “Hobbit” movie in December and “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” in January.

MGM also revealed that former Fox exec Peter Liguori has joined its board of directors, which now includes the two toppers along with Ann Mather, James Dondero, Jason Hirschhorn, Christopher Pucillo, Fredric Reynolds and Kevin Ulrich.

And the biggest single shareholders at year’s end were Anchorage Capital, Highland Capital and Icahn Capital — large holders of debt pre-Chapter 11 who swapped that debt for equity during the restructuring. MGM settled some $5 billion of claims with creditors during that process.

Worldwide TV licensing revenue of $397 million last year included $86 million from theatrical titles “Quantum of Solace” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” moving through initial pay and free windows. Physical homevid sales were $188 million, mostly on library titles.

Total operating expenses were $400 million. Distribution and marketing expense was $91 million.

The studio realized net earnings of $22 million from its stake in Epix, the pay TV network it owns with Paramount and Lionsgate.

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